On Wednesday a concerned mother posted a picture of her son’s AP Government class summer reading list from Spanish Fort High School in a closed Facebook Group I belong too. The group is made up of the silent minority here on the Gulf Coast – liberals, progressives, and secularists that don’t fit into the southern conservative culture. As I read it it seemed almost like a hoax. Fake news. Surely, in one of the most affluent and educated areas here on the Gulf Coast this type of thing was not going on right under the nose of parents and administrators? How wrong I was.
I quickly verified that the teacher who gave out the list to his students did indeed teach at Spanish Fort High School and not only that the list was up on the schools website dating back to the 2014-2015 school year (it has since been removed). Not only did I find out that this teacher taught with a right-wing slant in his classroom but that he had previously run for public office and failed – mostly due to his extremist views on the federal government and state rights issues. There is also a blog but I will get to that later.
After asking for permission to share, several of us in the Facebook Group began to publicly share the list. I sent the list to other area Progressives, the ACLU, and I also posted it to Facebook but not before I sent it to my aunt whose daughter attends school there. Within hours it was soon discovered that Gene Ponder had been using this list for years without permission and without approval from the Baldwin County School Board or the principal of the school. That his class had been allegedly taught with a far right slant with religious and racist overtones for close to a decade. Keep in mind this is a AP Government High School course that students must take in order to receive their Honors Diploma.
And there in lies part of the problem. The class is required for students on the Honors Diploma track and Gene Ponder is the only AP Government teacher at Spanish Fort High School. It puts parents and students in a bind to complain about the content of his class for fear of retribution or being singled out. This is not a liberal “snowflake” issue, this is an education issue and having a non biased public education paid for by tax payers. The thing is, even conservative, Republican parents would find issue with some of the books and websites used for Mr. Ponder’s class. Yet again, it wasn’t until this ONE parent stepped forward that this problem was revealed.
What I find amusing is that I am constantly reading about how liberalism is taught in our schools and that school text books are liberal propaganda but that is just not the case, especially here in the South. And Gene Ponder is not alone, there are dozens upon dozens of public school teachers like him. Teachers who are manipulating and brainwashing our youth against climate change and with the beliefs of those like Alex Jones. Gene Ponder wasn’t trying to get his students to critically think about the governments role he was manipulating them to think that someone like Michael Savage and Ann Coulter are the great political thinkers of our time and that Global Warming is a liberal conspiracy. He wanted his students to think of Brietbart as an unbiased news source but not only that he surreptitiously included Christian religious beliefs and propaganda into his class as well.
You may be asking why I give two shits because we are homeschoolers. Well, for one my cousin attends this school as do several friends children. Friends, who are both conservative and liberal, who would oppose this reading list and the characterization of Republicans and Democrats put forth by Coach Ponder. I am also a tax payer. My tax dollars fund public education and pay Mr. Ponder’s salary. And trust me, we pay our fair share of state and federal taxes therefor I believe I get a say.
Mr. K was once a public school teacher. He taught Computer Science, Algebra, Geometry, and middle school math. He went in for seven years and taught the classes he was assigned. He taught the students theory and facts and did so without interjecting any political or religious beliefs. The same should go for science and history teachers as well. Discussions and exercises on critical thinking are one thing – manipulation and brainwashing are another. For nearly 165 hours of instruction time Gene Ponder had these students undivided attention, for a grade, and what you see on this list and what you see from the websites he has listed for his class, this is where he derived much of the views espoused in his classroom. These students were not being encouraged to read The Federalist Papers they were being encouraged to read Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder by Michael Savage. And to add icing on the cake one of his students posted two power points that they were shown and taught in class.
First and foremost these two lists presented in Gene Ponders class is not even factual. By 2016 the GOP was the party of less educated whites and lower income whites. While less educated voters leaned towards being Democrats in the 1990s it’s just no longer a fact now and that is evident by our latest election cycle. Even by 2008, education levels were more equal on both sides of the fence. Surprisingly enough one of the biggest complaints I have heard from Michael Savage, Alex Jones, and Laura Ingram is the criticism of educated elitism from Democrats. The truth is the majority of college educated voters voted for Clinton (52% Clinton, 29% Trump) Gene Ponder and his ilk can’t have it both ways. What is true is that over the past 16 years more and more college educated individuals have moved to the Democratic Party and there are a multitude of reasons for that and one is that the Republican base and party leaders are science deniers. It appears by the two power points presented in his class that Mr. Ponder was presenting these to create divisiveness rather than to promote critical thinking as to why certain groups lean toward certain political groups or ideology. He did get something right – it is white, Christian, heterosexual men who make up the GOP base but I doubt there was a critical overview as to why that is the case. After reading some of the comments of some of his former white, male students on Facebook it became clear that their was a air of white male superiority and is that what we want taught in ANY classroom.
I imagine Mr. Ponder is tenured and will retain his position but I think it is abundantly clear that teachers who perform certain duties and teach certain courses need additional vetting. Allowing a known Tea Party political extremist to teach history is probably not a good idea. I imagine had this been a far left extremist expounding views in the classroom there would have been a huge outcry. There is a reason for separation of church and state and why we do not allow religious proselytizing and prayers in school. The same should go for politics and political beliefs. It is one thing to tell a student that you are a member of a certain party and another to espouse the views of Ann Coulter.
While writing this blog entry Gene Ponder removed his entire blog. Things that make you go hmmmm….
We as parents and citizens need to continue to resist even at personal risk for the betterment of the whole.